The Mysterious Stranger
by Mark Twain

Charming tall tales. The title story involves Satan taking three Austrian boys into his confidence in the early 1500s. Satan/Twain is very hard on the moral sense. He regards it as the curse on mankind, which puts us lower than animals. His argument is inconsistent, because Satan's diatribe against the moral sense is full of moral indignation, which cannot be understood without the moral sense. Twain ends the story with Satan revealing the secret of life--it is all a dream, noting exists except the ideas in your head. This of course undercuts all the rest of Satan's philosophy and reduces his condemnation of the moral sense and mankind into insignificance.
"a deep, financial joy shone in her eyes" (48)

"The vast majority of the race, whether savage or civilized, are secretly kind-hearted and shrink from inflicting pain, but in the presence of the aggressive and pitiless minority they don't dare to assert themselves." (118)

"God who could make good children as easily as bad, yet preferred to make bad ones; who could have made everyone happy, yet never made a single happy one; who made them prize their bitter life, yet stingily cut it short; who gave his angels eternal happiness unearned, yet required his other children to earn it; who gave his angels painless lives, yet cursed his other children with biting miseries and maladies of mind and body; who mouths justice and invented hell--mouths mercy and invented hell--mouths Golden Rules, and forgiveness multiplied by seventy times seven, and invented hell; who mouths morals to other people and has none himself; who frowns upon crimes, yet commits them all; who created man without invitation, then tries to shuffle the responsibility for man's acts upon man, instead of honorably placing it where it belongs, upon himself; and finally, with altogether divine obtuseness, invites this poor, abused slave to worship him!" (139)

The second story is a narrated in part by Buffalo Bill's horse, who is given to a little girl who is the niece of the commander of a calvary fort in the old west.
"of the best blood of Kentucky, the bluest Blue-grass aristocracy, very proud and acrimonious--or maybe it is ceremonious. I don't know which it is. But it is no matter; size is the main thing about a word, and that one's up to standard." (149)
The third story is a description of Heaven as experienced by Captain Stormfield.
"Singing hymns and waving palm branches through all eternity is pretty when you hear about it in the pulpit, but it's as poor a way to put in valuable time as a body could contrive. It would just make a heaven of warbling ignoramuses, don't you see?" (241)
Next is a short fable that falls flat.

Next is a description of Twain's recurring dreams about his eternally fifteen-year-old imaginary sweetheart.

Next is an amusing story about a turkey who outsmarts a boy who is hunting it.

Finally is a funny story about the more than worthless burglar alarm system that a man had installed in his house.

Year Read: 1999


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